LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

Pooja Sethi (Advocate)     31 March 2009

What is prima facie case

I am final year student of law can somebody clearly brief me what's the meaning of prima facie case.


 14 Replies

Kuljit Pal Singh (Legal Professional)     31 March 2009

Dear Friend,

The meaning of Prima facie case is very wide: The literal meaning of it is "on the face of it" meaning thereby on very first sight or without go into the deep the case is appearing to be. It is the very important to prove prima-facie case while getting injunctions.


N.K.Assumi (Advocate)     31 March 2009

Agreed with Kuljit.

Y V Vishweshwar Rao (Advocate )     31 March 2009

Shri Kuljit Pal Singh is  correct 

adv. rajeev ( rajoo ) (practicing advocate)     31 March 2009

I agreed with Kuljit

Shree. ( Advocate.)     31 March 2009

Dear Pooja,

Latin for "on its face." A prima facie case is one that at first glance presents sufficient evidence for the plaintiff to win. Such a case must be refuted in some way by the defendant for him to have a chance of prevailing at trial. For example, if you can show that someone intentionally touched you in a harmful or offensive way and caused some injury to you, you have established a prima facie case of battery. However, this does not mean that you automatically win your case. The defendant would win if he could show that you consented to the harmful or offensive touching. 

It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence that (unless rebutted) would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

Most legal proceedings require a prima facie case to exist, following which proceedings may then commence to test it, and create a ruling.

K.C.Suresh (Advocate)     01 April 2009

Prima facie

Prima facie (IPA: /'praɪmɘ 'feɪʃi/) is a Latin expression meaning on its first appearance, or by first instance; at first sight. The literal translation would be " first face", prima first, facie face. It is used in modern legal English to signify that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence which (unless rebutted) would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

Most legal proceedings require a prima facie case to exist, following which proceedings may then commence to test it, and create a ruling. This may be called facile princeps, first principles.

The burden of proof

In most legal proceedings, one party has a burden of proof, which requires them to present prima facie evidence for all the essential facts in its case. If they cannot, their claim may be dismissed without any need for a response by other parties. A prima facie case might not stand or fall on its own; if an opposing party introduces other evidence or asserts an affirmative defense it can only be reconciled with a full trial. Sometimes the introduction of prima facie evidence is informally called making a case or building a case.

For example, in a trial under Criminal law the prosecution has the burden of presenting prima facie evidence of each element of the crime charged against the defendant. In a murder case, this would include evidence that the victim was in fact dead, that the defendant's act caused the death, and evidence that the defendant acted with malice aforethought. If no party introduces new evidence the case stands or falls just by the prima facie evidence.

Prima facie evidence need not be conclusive or irrefutable: at this stage, evidence rebutting the case is not considered, only whether any party's case has enough merit to take it to a full trial.

In some jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, the prosecution in a criminal trial must disclose all evidence to the defence. This includes the prima facie evidence.

An aim of the doctrine of prima facie is to prevent litigants bringing spurious charges which simply waste all other parties' time.

Res ipsa loquitur

Prima facie is often confused with res ipsa loquitur ("the thing speaks for itself"), the common law doctrine that when the facts make it self-evident that negligence or other responsibility lies with a party, it is not necessary to provide extraneous details, since any reasonable person would immediately find the facts of the case.

The difference between the two is that prima facie is a term meaning there is enough evidence for there to be a case to answer. Res ipsa loquitur means that because the facts are so obvious, a party need explain no more. For example:

"There is a prima facie case that the defendant is liable. They controlled the pump. The pump was left on and flooded the plaintiff's house. The plaintiff was away and had left the house in the control of the defendant. Res ipsa loquitur."

Criticism of subjective Prima facie interpretation.

It is logically and intuitively clear that just because a matter *appears* to be self-evident from the facts, that both the notion of the evidence presenting a case in a self-evident manner and the facts actually being facts (which, presumably, would require evidence of at least a minimum degree of quality) can often be reduced to entirely subjective interpretations that are independent of any truthful merit by sufficiently skilled individuals.

That is to say, appearances can be deceptive even to the objectively minded, and they can be subjectively interpreted (meaning that what amounts to a prima facie case for one judging individual would not do so for another). Just because a matter appears to be evident from a certain presentation of the facts it does not follow that that matter has any truthful validity - which would limit the common sensical utility of prima facie evidence.

As an example, consider the following:

Statement I : "John has been shot dead. Joe has been found near John with a smoking gun. Therefore, this is prima facie evidence of Joe having shot John with a smoking gun." [the infamous shooting gun example]

Apparently, this (in an overly simplified manner) indicates that we have a prima facie case for arresting (and convicting) Joe for shooting John.

However, add the following piece of evidence to the Prima Facie case calculations :

Statement II : "Both Joe and John were within a shooting club at the time at which John was shot dead. "

This example indicates that it is far from clear that Joe actually shot John dead due to certain facts having been selectively highlighted and presented for the purposes of the prima facie case. That is to say, due to the fact that relevant circumstances are either omitted or illogically/irrationally presented for the purposes of the prima facie case - it appears as if the statement made amounts to a prima facie case. This is because sufficient evidence has apparently been presented for the purposes of the prima facie case, but necessary evidence has been omitted (a reasonable argument would be that as much evidence concerning the particulars of the case are presented within a prima facie case as possible).

Given our informal presentation of the prima facie case in Statement I, we have not contradicted any of the evidence by introducing the facts of Statement II (which, presumably, would mean that Statement I still holds as a Prima Facie basis for a case - despite the questionable basis upon which Statement I could be held as being a prima facie case).

However, it is clear that a reasonable man would find Statement I unpalatable as a Prima Facie case as it contains no information relating to the particulars of a case - and it seems clear that Statement II provides sufficient reason to throw out Statement I out as being a sufficient basis for a Prima Facie case on reasonable grounds.

These criticisms are conceptually inherent to the notion of a prima facie case or evidence. They do not relate to the example or the quality of the evidence. The situation arises due to the fact that all (or, at least, a reasonably water tight amount) of the relevant particulars of the case are not presented in an objective manner.

Other uses and references

The phrase prima facie is sometimes misspelled prima facia in the mistaken belief that facia is the actual Latin word; however, the word is in fact faciçs (fifth declension), of which faciç is the ablative.

Facie It is not related to the Latin words fasces or feces.

The phrase is very commonly used in academic philosophy, in exactly the same sense as by lawyers. Among its most notable uses is in the theory of ethics first proposed by W. D. Ross, often called the Ethic of Prima Facie Duties, as well as in epistemology, as used, e.g. by Robert Audi. It is generally used in reference to an obligation. "I have a prima facie obligation to keep my promise and meet my friend" means that I am under an obligation but this may yield to a more pressing duty. A more modern usage prefers the title ‘pro tanto obligation’: an obligation that may be later overruled by another more pressing one; it exists only pro tempore.


N.K.Assumi (Advocate)     01 April 2009

Great work Sir.Suresh. I ahve saved your classic work on the subject.

N.K.Assumi (Advocate)     01 April 2009

Great work Sir.Suresh. I have saved your classic work on the subject.

Prakash S Thakkar (Practising Lawyer)     01 April 2009

The meaning of Prima facie case is very wide: The literal meaning of it is "on the face of it" meaning thereby on very first instance or without go into the deep the case is appearing to be.

Ashey   01 April 2009

Gr8 work Mr.Suresh and Mr. Shree

ritu bhadana (advocate)     01 April 2009

mr. shree and mr. k.c. suresh are absolutely right

swati (advocate)     07 April 2009


prima facia case means apparently also

Rajan Salvi (Lawyer)     08 June 2009

In R.S. Nayah's case, AIR 1986 SC 2045, the Supreme Court gave an illustration to bring out the meaning of the expression 'prima facie case'. It was stated that if the scales of a part as to the guilt or innocence of the accused are something like even, at the conclusion of the trial, then, on the theory of benefit of doubt, the case is to end in his acquittal. But, if, on the other hand, it is so at the initial stage of making an order under Section 227 or Section 228, then, in such a situation, ordinarily and generally, the order, which will have to be made will be one under Section 228 (charge to be framed) and not under Section 227 (of discharge). Making a reference to Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs v. Anil Kumar, AIR 1980 SC 52, in which State of Bihar v. Ramesh Singh, AIR 1977 SC 2018 was quoted, it was observed that the truth, veracity and the effect of the evidence which the prosecution proposes to adduce are not to be meticulously judged. The standard of test, proof and judgment which is to be applied finally before finding the accused guilty or otherwise is not exactly to be applied. At this stage, even a very strong suspicion founded upon materials before the Magistrate which leads him to form a presumptive opinion as to the existence of the factual ingredients constituting the offence alleged may justify the framing of the charge. In determining whether a prima facie case had been made out, the evidence of the witnesses is entitled to a reasonable degree of credit. Where much can be said on both sides, it would be for the trial court to decide whether to accept the evidence or not. For purposes of prima facie case, the same would have been made out. A prima facie case is not made out where the evidence is totally unworthy of credit or the same is patently absurd or inherently improbable. It is obviously not possible to define the expression 'prima facie case' because it will vary from case to case."

Umar (Associate)     11 January 2010

the meaning of prima facie has been defined quite exhaustively by everyone, however the standard at which prima facie evidence is determined (by lawyers, prosecutors, judges etc) is often confusing, however the standard of prima facie is same as the civil standard, which is more likely than not (balance of probablities). obviously the two work totally differently but the standard is the same.

Leave a reply

Your are not logged in . Please login to post replies

Click here to Login / Register  

Related Threads


Popular Discussion

view more »

Post a Suggestion for LCI Team
Post a Legal Query